by Thom Yee
Green Lantern. Its mere mention is enough to send shivers down the spines of comic book fans and moviegoers alike. And it’s probably the reason we haven’t heard as much from Ryan Reynolds lately (R.I.P.D. not withstanding).
For my part… I didn’t hate Green Lantern. On the plus side, Ryan Reynolds and Mark Strong were strong choices as Hal Jordan and Sinestro (spoiler alert Sinestro is sinister) and the basic plot was serviceable. On the minus side, none of the characters were all that likable, the villains were either pathetic, uncompelling or poorly defined, the movie failed to capitalize on all the weird-looking aliens the way a lot of the marketing seemed to be going for, and I really just think the Green Lantern power set — which is basically a magic wishing ring — doesn’t translate that well to the screen. You just don’t get that visceral thrill of people hitting each other (giant, green energy fists don’t count). And Blake Lively was just awful.
Overall, I would say Green Lantern’s biggest flaw is that it just never felt like the producers ever tried to elevate the movie beyond good enough, and it sort of felt like they were trying to leech off the success of Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark in highlighting Reynolds’ Hal Jordan as a cocky, irresponsible, self-involved womanizer. In the end, Green Lantern was just an insincere movie, and the plot, some of the characters, a lot of the acting and the visual effects reflected that.
Also, here’s something that always bugged me. Take a look at this clip:
How did he know there wasn’t anybody in that truck? He just launched it at Parallax and hoped for the best?
What the failure of Green Lantern showed us is that we’re not ready to jump into a superhero universe so far removed from our reality. Even in Asgard, travelling through the frozen fields of Jotunheim, and across the Nine Realms, a movie like Marvel’s Thor, built on a pantheon of mythological gods, stayed firmly rooted on Earth and in characters that felt real. Green Lantern just had a bunch of CGI aliens, weird, cloud-looking evil entities, and a hero who points at stuff and uses his “will power” to make things happen.
But I don’t need to tell you why Green Lantern sucked. I don’t need to tell you why we need to move past it.
Now, as we look forward to the man of steel’s second movie reintroduction, we stand on the precipice of the future of superhero movies. Will we soon have a strong rival for Marvel Studios or will we have to wait even longer for our Justice League? What does DC Entertainment need to do to get back into the movie game?
(All images courtesy of DC Comics and Warner Brothers)
5) Plan a Batman re-entrance strategy
Christopher Nolan’s influence on the Bat-franchise has left an indelible mark on the psyche of anyone who appreciates superheroes, movies, or well-told stories. The shadow of the Nolan-bat looms so large and is so inescapable that relaunching the character, even if only as one element of an overarching Justice League franchise, seems foolhardy at this point. There was a rumour going around that Joseph Gordon-Levitt would turn up as the new Batman (as foreshadowed in The Dark Knight Rises), but it proved to be false. Too bad, as that was probably the smartest play the producers could have made. It would’ve allowed for a strong break from the thematic overtones of Nolan’s trilogy, overtones that would have been too heavy and ill-suited for a bright, new Justice League universe, while still retaining a sense of legacy between film projects.
4) Cast a new Green Lantern
Though Ryan Reynolds can’t be totally blamed for the downfall of Green Lantern, negative association with the Green Lantern movie could be a significant downer in a continuing Justice League franchise. Which is actually kind of perfect as there are currently five different Earth-based Green Lanterns in the comic DC universe. Throughout the comic’s history, different characters — Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, and the recently introduced Simon Baz — have been introduced to reinvigorate the series, and the same approach would work well for the movies. Beyond side-stepping the negative association of the Green Lantern movie, this move would also allow producers to introduce an untested Green Lantern as a viewpoint character in a DC-heroes-assemble!-type movie.
And besides that, a John Stewart Green Lantern would not only line up with the Justice League cartoon, but also allow for more ethnic diversity. Otherwise the Justice League is just a bunch of white people. And one martian.
3) Make Aquaman cool
Aquaman is almost entirely a joke in the eyes of people who are even peripherally aware of who he is and what he does. I even wrote a short article about him. Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis have deservedly gotten credit for their work on the New 52 Aquaman comic book series, toughening the character up, giving him an interesting back story, and tackling many of the jokes about the character head on. But… most people still don’t read comics (that’s an entirely different discussion). At this point, the public image of Aquaman as a character who talks to fish and can’t do anything away from water is fairly ingrained and pretty unavoidable. And it seems unlikely that he would be one of the headline characters in a Justice League series of movies the way that Iron Man and Thor are in the Avengers. Aquaman’s probably going to be a secondary character like Hawkeye. If DC can manage to show Aquaman doing a few cool things, proving his worth to the team, and that he can be an interesting character… well, people would still make fun of him.
2) Make a good Wonder Woman movie
Considering she’s one of the three pillar characters in the DC Universe (alongside Superman and Batman), Wonder Woman commands very little respect in terms of media and merchandise sales. A David E. Kelley-led series fizzled (though to be honest, that was probably for the best), her comic sells only a fraction of Superman’s and Batman’s respective series, and the only reason Wonder Woman seems to command any media power at all is because of her relative positioning as a female empowerment figure and her show from the ‘70s. But if you get to the core of the character, Wonder Woman’s a bigger badass than Batman and could more than stand up to Superman in a fight. It’s all in the portrayal, and even though female-led action films tend to not command the same type of box office totals as their male counterparts, one need only look to the success of Bridesmaids to see that, if marketed right, there might be an audience there. If DC can build off of the success of a few well-done films preceding it and position a Wonder Woman film in a similar way to what Marvel did with Captain America, then we might finally see DC’s third pillar pull her weight.
1) Put the “man” in Man of Steel
More than anything else, DC Entertainment needs to have a consistent, humanistic vision for its characters. We need to know these characters, believe in them, and understand them. We need to love them the same way we all, man and woman alike, love Robert Downey, Jr’s Tony Stark. If Warner Brothers can stick the landing on Man of Steel and craft a proper story out of the most recognized and beloved superhero property in the world, if it can create and maintain a consistent thematic through line with Christopher Nolan (or a Christopher Nolan-type) as producer and DCU architect, then we really might have something.
I sincerely hope that Man of Steel turns out as well as some of the advance reviews have suggested. In a busy movie season with the third Iron Man film, the second Star Trek, and a giant, Kaiju-fighting robots movie like Pacific Rim, Man of Steel is by far the movie I am most looking forward to this summer. I want Man of Steel to be good. I need Man of Steel to be good. And, if done right, I think the world wants and needs Man of Steel to be good too.
Because if Warner Bros. can’t protect its DC Universe intellectual properties… you can be damn well sure Marvel’s Avengers will slaughter them.
Look forward to our Man of Steel simul-review next week.
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